Of all the conferences and film festivals I have attended, the Austin Film Festival was the most focused on screenwriting and TV writing. The panelists were successful, working writers who enjoyed sharing their experience with the enthusiastic attendees. I was honored to be a part of it, and to have the chance to reconnect with old friends and make new friends, too.
I also heard some terrific advice from the panelists.
Here are some highlights:
“When you try to do a TV series, you have to have an idea of a saga. You can’t work with a flashlight. You must look far off into the distance.” Chris Carter (X-Files, Millenium)
“Don’t stand up to pitch your jokes because if they tank, it’s a long way down.” Phil Rosenthal (Everybody Loves Raymond, Coach)
“Don’t go to a party and tell people you are writing a screenplay. Go the fuck home and write your screenplay.” Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile)
“Only write the script you would pay to see on opening night.” John August (Frankenweenie, Big Fish)
“Whatever your reputation is, that’s that people will hire you for.” Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down)
“It’s weird how just hearing yourself say something out loud, it’s different than reading it on the page.” Alec Berg (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld)
“No way to break into the business unless you write your way in.” Hershel Weingrod (Trading Places, Kindergarten Cop)
“I would rather write for Melissa McCarthy than anyone right now. Ultimately, gender is a red herring.” Craig Mazin (The Hangover II, Identity Thief)
“Studios want to have the sequel without the risk of making the original movies.” Dan Petrie Jr. (Beverly Hills Cop, Turner & Hooch)
“Find ways not to be dependent on gatekeepers. Do it yourself. You need collaborators. You figure out how to make your independent film. Stop waiting around. Go do it.” James Franco (127 Hours, Pineapple Express)
“It’s understood that no one’s end goal is to be a PA. But the people who succeed are dedicated to being the best they can be at that moment.” Kari Lizer (The New Adventures of Old Christine, Will & Grace)
“The first time you (pitch) it, it’s not going to be great. It takes lots of drafts and a process until it gets to be good.” Mary Coleman (senior development executive, Pixar)
“Write your way out of your job. If you’re tired of being an assistant, the way out is by writing a great script.” Christine Boylan (Once Upon A Time, Castle)
“You want your movies to have a ‘because’ in between the scenes instead of ‘and then.’” Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses)
“I always go back to the first page every day.” Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Insider)
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